Stop! Thief!

White Fang is stealing the neighbors’ Halloween display, one bone at a time

It became clear, as I was sorting through all the old photos the other day, that we had very few of my son Smartacus when he was young, fatigued as we were by then with parenting, having confirmed that it was pretty much a hopeless proposition, a thankless task, the kind of grind that just sucks the life right out of a person.

Our kids were great, I mean that, and they had good health and cashmere hair and the jaunty confidence of those who were expected to do great and important things with their lives.

But they had my wife and me outnumbered, 4 to 2. They were in a zone set, with double coverage on the corners, and we were just trying to get an opponent in isolation.

Never stood a chance.

There were a million socks to sort, and someone was always missing a shin guard. The washing machine, that meat grinder of modern marriage, was working at all hours. Eventually Posh and I just hit the wall, as they say.

“Did you even want kids?” I asked her one night.

“Not these ones,” she said.

By that point, she’d adopted the kids’ speech patterns; it helped her to communicate, though it was always the girls she bonded with the best.

Our daughters totally worked Posh, sitting on her lap and combing her hair with their fingers, telling their mother how pretty she was and the clothes they needed, the sizes, the designer brands.

“These ones in the catalogue,” they’d say.

The boys spoke in grunts, with a mouthful of cookies. From the time they were 8 till age 14, we never understood a single word our sons spit.

Anyway, as it turns out, she thought I wanted kids and I thought she wanted kids. How hilarious. Oops!

Pro tip: The cosmos determines what you want, then gives you the opposite.

In truth, neither of us wanted kids, so God gave us four. That’s just how life works.

Pro tip: The cosmos determines what you want, then gives you the opposite.

So, bottom line, we now have very few photos of Smartacus when he was young, and roughly 800 million of the other kids.

If you happen to have one of Smartacus in your phone, a toddler meltdown at Costco, or him waving still-damp baseball socks out the car window on the way to a game — any of that — please send it along. We’ll take anything.

If not in photos, his life has been well-chronicled in the stories his dad writes. Smartacus is also a storyteller, and lately he has been pouring himself into his college essay, his Magna Carta, the most important document of his young life.

His college essay draft starts: “So I was killing time at the Target store with some of my skater friends…”

I see such promise. Doesn’t it make you want to just keep reading?

He has much to work with, of course. For the past week, his dog (actually a wolf) has been snatching pieces of the neighbors’ elaborate Halloween display, one by one – a bone, a pitchfork, a bloody plastic knife.

White Fang is quite proud of the work she is doing down there. First, she brought home a femur she found in the skeleton display, then someone’s fake hand.

To her, it seems a crime scene, and she is collecting evidence to give to the cops later, once she gets bored gnawing on it.

As it turns out, some of the bones are really bones, like the femur, which makes you wonder a little about the neighbors.

“You have the weirdest life I know,” said Rapunzel, when she heard about the stolen bones.

Thanks, kid. Like I don’t know that?

Anyway, Smartacus could write about the wolf who stole Halloween – funny stuff with a touch of everyday life.

Or he could write about his older sister, the one helping us re-decorate the house.

It’s fall, and the interior walls are changing colors, from a dark institutional green to a milder flaxseed, a calming yellow-gold.

“Kind of peach,” my lovely and patient older daughter notes.

I don’t see peach. I see gold. A sliver of California sun. Like Cybill Shepherd’s corn-silk hair in “The Last Picture Show.”

That kind of gold.

“It’s gold, not peach,” I assured my daughter.

“Sure Dad. You think dollar bills are blue.”

True dat. Fortunately, we’re in good hands. The lovely and patient older daughter is a genius with home decor, she has a real eye.

Like most geniuses, she can be a little difficult. I write it off to the creative juices gurgling through her brain. And she might be a little hungover, so she is brusque with us – never snappish, or rude. Just full speed ahead, my-way-or-the-highway, in the way of her dear, beautiful mom.

The thing about brusque people is that they get things done. I once noticed a sign on my daughter’s desk: “I’ll be nicer when you get smarter.” Or some such. That’s the mantra of my lovely and patient older daughter, our interior decorator. The Genius.

When this is over, I plan to give her a very good review on Yelp.

Something along the lines of: “She’s a good daughter. I highly recommend her. Of all the daughters I’ve ever produced, she is easily in the top 50th percentile.”

She grew up in this house, basically raised her siblings and her mom, pushed me around a little, not too much.

She is also refreshingly sardonic. As she clicks through websites of couches and rugs for us to pick out, she mutters, “I wish I knew you two a little better. That would help.”

Or, “What kind of family are you? Active? Morose? Do you watch too much reality TV like most people? Will you be eating nachos on this couch, because that’ll help us decide the fabric.”

“A fabric made from cheese?” suggests Smartacus.

“Great idea!” I say. “Maybe you should be my decorator.”

“Basically, we want a couch you can hose down,” Smartacus tells his sister.

“OK. That’ll be very classy,” she says.

My daughter clicks through design sites, then suggests maybe patio furniture would be best for the living room.

“What’s your budget?” she asks.

I don’t know. What’s a couch cost these days? Is it like dinner in West LA, where it’s twice as expensive as it should be? Or like a house that costs 50 times what it cost to build?

“I’d say 400 bucks,” I finally say.

“That’s a lot, Dad,” adds Smartacus.

That was the last time we saw my daughter. She snapped her laptop shut and rattled her keys in frustration, the way she does. She was on the freeway in five minutes, through downtown LA in 10.

Last we heard from her, was a cryptic little text, late at night, after she’d had a pinot or two.

“It’s peach,” she texted. “For the love of God, that paint is peach.”

Please join me for a Zoom show in support of Pages bookstore in Manhattan Beach, on Wednesday (Oct. 14) at 5 pm. The $23 ticket goes to support the landmark South Bay shop, and includes a signed copy of my new book, “Lavender in Your Lemonade,” one of the best books on lemonade to come out this year. For info, click here.

18 thoughts on “Stop! Thief!

  1. Love this one! You gave us a more detailed glimpse of your “Lovely and Patient” older daughter. I now see that “patient” was meant to be ironic all these years. I like her! Where can I get one of those signs for my desk?

  2. My agreement with my wife when it comes to paint, is that once she narrows the off whites down to 5, she can just choose one, she needs to help me with the prep work/taping, and I’ll put the stuff up on the wall. But I’ll only do it every 5+ years, so she better choose one she kind of likes.

    With the upcoming Pac12 football schedule, it’s good that UCLA is already accustomed to playing in an empty Rose Bowl.

    1. There are at least 100 shades of white so it’s lucky you only had peach to consider. Btw “The Last Picture Show” that I saw was in black and white. So not such a good analogy with the hair. I love Spartacus.

      1. Another wonderful piece. Sending it to Susan, who remains suspicious of signing up for anything on the internet. That leaves me to be the gatekeeper of what she reads, like the food taster for some ancient Egyptian queen. If she dies first I think I get buried alive with her. By the way, I wouldn’t go with the lighter paint sample on the left. It’s too close to your actual complexion. And if White Fang saw what appeared to be some clothes without a body wandering through the house it could freak her out.

      2. Hey Steve-O. Midway through reading your note, I’m thinking, “Who is this funny idiot?” It was you, of course. Love the Egyptian stuff and the paint tips. As far as “The Last Picture Show,” I flubbed that despite looking up her photos from the movie at one point, “mooning over them,” as they used to say. Still didn’t click. How pathetic, and further proof I really need an editor. Conversely, my next column compares Cathy’s young feet to warm cookies. That never would’ve gotten past an editor. Go Packers!

      3. Thanks for keep a close eye on me. You;re only the second person to spot the “Last Picture Show” flub. I’d like to say I plant those little mistakes to see if people are paying attention. But I’m not that smart.

  3. Rapunzel’s got her work cut out for her, but at least there’s the satisfaction she may get by you showing off your freshly hosed-down couch to visitors…

  4. Every color looks a little different this time of year. It’s the light. Even mustard looks like it just came from your gold pan–all that glitter on your sandwich. Yeeeesh ! Remember that when you chose the couch color. Random gold patterns look pretty cool in the autumn twilight. Add a dog munching munching a bone, and… voila ! You have reality TV–your new second career.

  5. The Beautiful Siberian has good taste. She is keeping the spirit of Halloween alive. Since there will not be candy/treats being doled out, someone has got to provide the tricks!

  6. How did we end up with the same lovely and patient older daughter? That text, hilarious! It simply has to be the same girl. Isn’t it amazing how we somehow managed to raise them, as ignorant and foolish as we parents are? I love it.

  7. You’re too humble. “Lavender in your Lemonade” is not just one of the best books on lemonade this year. It is hands down one of the best books on any fruit flavored beverage ever.

  8. Every house makeover needs their HGTV designer star and luckily for you it’s your daughter. We did the makeover last year including buying a couch as well. Thought I found the perfect one but turns out I could only afford the ottoman which was too small for us all to sit comfortably. Picking wall paint from paint chips can be dizzying and confusing but my oldest daughter helped as well. I thought it was a Rorschach test. Not sure if your color is peachy or flaxseed…but it will be fabulous. Cheers!

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